Redefining Our Relationship With Stress: It’s Gotta Go.

I’m late getting these fall pictures up – this was by far my favorite hike of the year. The leaves are off the trees now and we’ve had our first snow fall of the season… but heck, it’s worth looking back at where we’ve been.

Speaking of, why don’t you meander with me and I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with stress.

Remember one of my first posts, the one about breaking up with pressure? I was thinking about it recently, pondering how far I’ve come and how much better life is. The funny part is: I’ve still got a long way to go.

woman-carrying-toddler
Zoom hiked up Rattlesnake Mountain all by himself . And I got to carry my baby back down while he took a well-desereved break.

But I’m not going to stress about it.

Let me digress here and introduce Pressure’s close relative, whom we’re all a little familiar with: Stress.

Stress is like that overly-touchy person who puts their arm around your shoulders and leaves it there. The funny thing is, the longer that arm is there, you kinda just get used to it. Wait long enough, you don’t even feel it anymore.

That’s how I lived with stress. It was just always there, and since I didn’t know how to get away from it, I kind of just accepted it as a part of life.

Shortly after graduating college, my best friend told me: “I really thought you would be less stressed once you graduated.”

Now in that moment I remember thinking, I don’t feel stressed. But strangely I knew she was right. I had just finished a tough season of life, my work load was cut down to less than half, but I was still stressed. Feeling overwhelmed and frantic and distracted had become my daily habit, I began to feel like my brain was just genetically wired to be stressed.

It became a self-proclaimed “personality quirk.” And I believed the lie that it was okay – after all, I was tough, I could handle it. So in a lot of ways, I stopped fighting stress’ presence in my life and just accepted it.

spider-on-twig

Fast-forward a few years, and…

Like I’ve mentioned before, I went through a detoxification period after quitting my job as an emergency dispatcher (dare I say I’m still walking that road?). Realizing I needed to decompress and release the stress from hours upon hours of high-stress incidents was one step. Quitting my obsession with being in charge during tougher-than-life situations was another step.

But the hardest step was one I had to take just recently: naming my propensity to stress for what it was, a toxic relationship I was deeply invested in.

This was another relationship I needed to end.

With stress comes worry. And worry has always been my middle name, ever since I was a little kid. Again, I thought it was just another bent. Until the subject came up a few months ago in my small group.

Through our discussion, we dissected worry, disbelief and trust in God. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks:

man-carrying-baby
Ryan and Speedy enjoying the view from the top.

Choosing to abide with stress and worry is willfully choosing to distrust God and His promises of provision and peace.

Think about it: when we stress out about something, we’re choosing to believe we have the power to affect the situation — and that our power is stronger than God’s sovereignty.

It was a moment where I realized God was completely redefining my relationship with stress.

He wasn’t just trying to teach me some stress-handling techniques and, oh yeah, to blindly trust Him. He was showing me that choosing to let stress have such a strong presence in my life was not only having ramifications on my health (because who hasn’t seen the studies on stress being a killer?), but it was having ramifications on my faith.

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A view from the top of Rattlesnake Mountain

Now, there’s no magical switch we can flip to stop stressing, but there’s a huge ray of hope.

I felt so free when all this came crashing into my brain like those aforementioned bricks. Because I realized if God was so against stress, that meant He had defined a way in my life to live without it.

It might help to think about stress like temptation. And from 1 Corinthians 10:13, we know God always provides a way to escape temptation. So if we’re meant to avoid stress, we can trust our Lord to provide a way out of it.

That means we don’t have to carry it alone anymore. It’s not a personality quirk or some habit we have to accept. It doesn’t have to be a constant companion. Stress is not part of your or my identity. We can trust that God is sovereign and we can let go of the habit of stressing out. And catch our breath. And rest.

What is your relationship with stress like? Comment below!